Tools for Coping with Your Child’s Illness: Questions


I want to continue writing about tools for coping with your child’s illness. My hope is to bring you some shifts in thinking — which may not seem like a lot, but believe me, subtle shifts can change everything!

When Your Child is Sick

When my son Yousef was diagnosed with cancer, all I had were questions. At first, they weren’t the most empowering ones. They came out of fear and confusion. First, out of the blue, he broke his leg during football (soccer) practice – which was his favourite activity. What followed was weeks of his restlessness and pain as he waiting to heal.  I’m sure all he wanted was to get back on that field with his friends.

Yousef at the hospital

Next, came a second break – which Yousef’s father and I both knew was terribly odd. Then, Yousef was diagnosis with  cancer, and maybe you’ve had this experience too: at first the doctors weren’t even sure what type he had or how they would approach his treatment. There is nothing as frightening as hearing your child has cancer. There is no feeling like the hopelessness that comes when you don’t even know what to tell him!

Asking the Right Questions When Your Doctor Says “Cancer”

It all felt like it came at us so suddenly. In my book Hoping and Coping: How My Darling Little Son and I Broke Free of Cancer, you can read about how Yousef’s cancer diagnosis utterly disrupted everything we were doing day to day. How it challenged all my assumptions and beliefs and all of Yousef’s too.

A sticker made for childhood cancer awareness

Most of all, when the doctors told me this unbelievable news, once my mind starting working again, all I had were questions. One the biggest was: How will I tell Yousef? I mean, how does any mother tell their child that they are sick with cancer and they are facing pain, treatments that will make them feel sick, tests, operations, and many days in the hospital?

Powerful Questions

Eventually, once those frantic questions quieted down, I learned how the right questions can be powerful, and can move one from feeling terrified and worried, to hopeful, resourceful and able to look for possibilities for something more useful, helpful, and hopeful.

This is how I use questions in my coaching practice. It helps people see their lives in a new way. The questions always empower. Being so sure of the answers shut us down to what’s possible next.


Tools for Coping: Questions

Why me, why him, why us?


What did I do to deserve this?


Why does a child have to suffer this way?


What will happen now?


How very human to get caught up in the swirl of fear. So, I forgive myself those disrupted, unhelpful questions. What would it feel like for you to let those types of questions go? (Believe me, everyone is going to ask, “Why me, why us?” so you’re not alone!)

Everyone wonders, “What’s right or fair or good about this nightmare!?”

Everyone asks, “What if the worst happens?”

Here is proof you know how to use questions. And you can learn to ask the ones that open up your experience instead of shut it down in fear and hopelessness.


What I suggest in my book Hoping and Coping: How My Darling Little Son and I Broke Free of Cancer is that you use questions in a more positive way. Use them to create a different outcome, a different future. The right questions open up possibilities, especially if you make sure they are open-ended, (not just “yes” or “no”) questions.



Here are some to try when you are fed up, discouraged, afraid, exhausted, feeling like there is no way out. You can ask:


  • What is right with this that I am not getting?


  • What am I not aware of here?


  • What can I do to make it a little easier now?



Feel Hugged,







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